Igor Danchenko has given his first interviews since being identified in July as the primary source for the Steele dossier.
Danchenko, a Russian analyst, said in one interview that he stands by his work on the dossier. He is also denying allegations that he was a Russian spy.
The interviews do not address several clear errors in the dossier, which the FBI used to obtain warrants to surveil Carter Page.
Danchenko’s associates have set up a fundraising campaign touting him as a “Trump-Russia whistleblower.”
Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who served as the primary source for former British spy Christopher Steele, has come out of hiding to discuss his work on the controversial document.
Though key claims in the dossier have been debunked, Danchenko defended his dirt-digging effort in interviews with The Guardian and The New York Times published Wednesday. He has also set up a fundraising campaign in which he touts himself as a “Trump-Russia whistleblower.”
“I stand by it,” Danchenko told the Guardian of the work he did for Steele.
He also said he stands behind the dossier’s most salacious claim — that the Russian government recorded Donald Trump with prostitutes urinating on each other in a hotel room in Moscow in 2013.
“I got it right,” he told the Guardian of the so-called “pee tape” allegation.
Danchenko did acknowledge in his interview with The Times that information he fed to Steele could have been inaccurate.
“Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” he told the newspaper.
“Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?”
The interviews are Danchenko’s first since he was identified in July as the primary source for Steele.
Danchenko, 42, was outed following the release of a heavily redacted FBI memo of his interviews with the FBI from Jan. 24-26, 2017. The FBI redacted Danchenko’s name in the memo, but a Twitter user identified him by piecing together clues in the document.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report released in December said that Danchenko — who was referred to as “Primary Sub-Source” — undercut the credibility of the dossier, which the FBI used to obtain warrants to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page.
Danchenko, who was an analyst at the Brookings Institution through 2010, told the FBI that he did not personally verify allegations in the dossier that the Trump campaign was involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government. He also told the FBI that he believed some of his sources’ comments were hearsay or made “in jest.”
Danchenko had worked for Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, for several years before he was tasked to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Russia. Steele had been hired by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was working for the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC.
According to Danchenko, the Trump tape allegation came from two sources he met in Moscow and St. Petersburg in June 2016. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in August that Danchenko met with a Russian government official and the editor of a finance magazine in Russia on June 15, 2016, five days before the first Steele memo.
Danchenko, who declined to identify his sources to the Times, said he “casually steered conversations” with his sub-sources toward whether they had heard of any compromising material on Trump.
He said that one of the sources brought up the alleged existence of a tape of Trump from the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.
He claims he investigated the allegation about Trump by interviewing staff members at the Ritz-Carlton. Danchenko did not receive confirmation that a tape existed. Instead, he said he interpreted circumstantial evidence as corroboration for the existence of a tape.
Trump has vehemently denied the dossier’s claims about his conduct in Moscow. People who were with Trump during the 2013 trip, which was for the Miss Universe pageant, have said that he spent only a few hours alone during his one-night stay in Moscow.
The interviews with The Guardian and The New York Times do not address clear errors in the dossier, including Steele’s most specific allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
According to Steele and Danchenko, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin insiders to discuss paying off hackers who helped the Trump campaign.
Reports from the special counsel’s investigation and the Justice Department inspector general said that the allegation about Cohen was false. The special counsel’s report also said that there was no evidence that any Trump associates conspired with Russia or took part in any email hacks.
Danchenko told investigators that the source for that story, a woman he had known since he was a teenager, was also the source for an uncorroborated allegation about Carter Page.
That source alleged that Page met secretly in Moscow in July 2016 with Kremlin official Igor Diveykin to discuss the exchange of blackmail material on Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Page has said he had never heard of Diveykin before the alleged meeting appeared in a news report from September 2016 that used Steele as a source. No other evidence has emerged to suggest that Page met Diveykin.
Danchenko also did not address a mystery surrounding another alleged dossier source, Sergei Millian.
Millian, a Belarusian-American businessman, was identified in news reports in January 2017 as a key but unwitting source for Steele, including for the Trump tape claim.
But Danchenko told the FBI that he believes he only spoke by phone once with Millian. He said he received a phone call from someone he believed to be Millian in late July 2016. The call would have been more than a month after Danchenko shared the allegation about a Trump sex tape with Steele.
Millian has denied speaking with Danchenko.
The numerous errors in the dossier have sparked concern that Russian intelligence operatives fed disinformation into Steele and Danchenko’s source network.
The Justice Department inspector general’s report said that the FBI received evidence in January and February 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have been behind false allegations about the Trump sex tape and Cohen’s trip to Prague.
Some Republicans have suggested that Danchenko himself could have been a source for disinformation.
They’ve cited an FBI memo declassified last month that said the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation on Danchenko in 2009. The memo said that a think tank colleague of Danchenko’s said that he had asked associates about the classified security clearances. Danchenko had also met in 2005 and 2006 with Russian diplomats and a Russian intelligence officer.
“I’ve never been a Russian agent,” Danchenko told The Times. “It is ridiculous to suggest that. This, I think, it’s slander.”
Danchenko has set up an online fundraising campaign to cover legal costs and recoup income he claims to have lost since being identified as Steele’s source.
The GoFundMe campaign touts Danchenko as a “Trump-Russia whistleblower” and “the first man to expose Russian election interference and elements of Trump team/Russia collusion!”
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